One of the hardest things to do when you have an idea is to look at it from different perspectives. It is even more so when you wish to communicate your idea. We tend to stick with the mental model we have because, after all, this is the model we want to share and help others adopt.
But as difficult as changing perspective is, it has an enormous value. When we look at things from different perspectives, we often discover new insights. But even if we don’t, a fresh perspective can help us communicate the idea more effectively to diverse audiences.
In this issue, we explore three perspectives you can play with before sharing your ideas. They might drive you to change or refine your idea, or they might not. But either way, they will help you explain it better to others.
Your Audience’s Perspective
It sounds trivial: We have to know who we are communicating with. We cannot share our ideas effectively if we don’t know who we are sharing them with. But knowing our audience is not enough. To communicate effectively, we have to temporarily forget everything we know and put ourselves in their shoes.
When we adopt our audience’s perspective, things we might find trivial can become real barriers we need to overcome. What we consider a no-brainer might turn out to be a chasm one can barely cross. And we can realize that the motivation we take for granted might be completely different than that of the people we talk with.
None of that should make us ditch our idea, but experiencing (not just understanding) our audience’s perspective will help us refine our idea or reshape our arguments. This isn’t a tactical trick. If we wish to make an impact, we must be willing to stand in the place of the people whose minds we wish to change.
The Opposite Perspective
If you’ve ever participated in a competitive debate, you probably know the power of thinking like your opponent. Lawyers do that all the time. Seeing things from the opposite perspective is one of the hardest things to do, especially when you are invested in your idea.
When we look at things from the opposite perspective, we actively challenge our arguments and line of thought. Our goal is not to have second thoughts and change our minds. We look for soft spots in our logic so we can strengthen it and build a stronger case for our idea.
Beyond the immediate benefit of perfecting our case, thinking from the opposite perspective sharpens our critical thinking. It is an exercise in building different logical paths than the ones already shaping our mental model. And that by itself is a powerful skill to have.
When we zoom out, we gain a broader perspective. We better understand the context and where our idea fits in.
When we wish to share an idea, we typically focus on that concrete idea. It’s the natural thing to do: zoom in on your target. But with it, our field of view narrows, and we might miss important details about the broader context.
Zooming out gives us a sense of direction: where we are heading (and hopefully why). Communicating this perspective to our audience is absolutely essential. If our audience and we are heading the same way, pointing this out can help them understand and adopt the idea. If we are heading in different directions, we should probably have this deeper discussion before going into the details of the concrete idea.